Archive for the ‘Denzel Washington’ Category

MOVIE: Safe House (2012)

June 22, 2012

Aside from the fact I’ve now decided Ryan Reynolds is the most boringest actor OF ALL TIME, I actually enjoyed this thriller, which was my Pay-Per-View pick at a recent librarian conference (my first night in a hotel for a conference, I always iron all my clothes while eating room service and watching a PPV movie — it’s a tradition).  The story’s about two CIA agents — a n00b, Matt Weston (Reynolds), and a old-timer-gone-rogue, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) — who begin as guard and prisoner and end as hesitant partners at work against a force of corruption on the inside.

As the movie opens, Weston is frustrated with his stale career at the CIA.  His assignment has been to sit on a safe house in a foreign country (I forget where, but it isn’t important), waiting around for someone to need it.  Nobody ever does, though, so in his off-hours, he’s cultivated a personal life — engaged to a beautiful woman who has no idea what he really does for a living.  (And yep, THAT’S coming back to bite him in the ass later in the film, believe you me.  Fellas, why do you insist on lying to your ladies about your secret agent jobs?  It just never ends well.  Never ever ever.  Ever.  Or ever.)

Matt’s life is about to get a lot more exciting, though.  Infamous agent Tobin Frost has just turned himself into the CIA, claiming he’s in possession of some super-seekrit data (the movie’s MacGuffin — most spy flicks gotta have one) that a group of bad guys would kill for.  To protect him (while also torturing him for information — ah, the irony of the US government!), the CIA takes him to the closest safe house — Matt’s.  And though Matt’s initially treated like a servant by the agents guarding Frost, who think of him as a rookie not ready to take on anything major, it’s not long before Weston finds himself on the run with Tobin, trying to hold onto him as a prisoner while also keeping them both from being killed by the aforementioned group of bad guys.

Cue chase scenes.  About ten thousand of them.

From there, the story takes a pretty predictable path.  If you’ve ever seen a Hollywood movie — especially one starring Denzel Washington — then you know how this is going to end.  The protagonists start out as enemies, Weston’s youthful idealism keeping him from believing Frost’s story of massive government corruption.  But as the evidence piles up (along with the bodies), that idealism is replaced by savvy grown-up cynicism, Weston ultimately revealing himself to be a talented agent with great instincts for the job.  Frost and Weston end up working together to solve the mystery at hand, and, you know, tidy little ending, blah blah blah.

There’s nothing in this film you haven’t seen a hundred times before, in other words, but what makes it entertaining is — well, hell, I don’t know.  Something.  Something other than Ryan Reynolds who, MY GOD, is just the blandest person alive.  Washington does what he always does, though, which is something I happen to like, so he’s fun to watch.  And the rest of the cast is strong as well — Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard (mrrrowl!) and good ol’ ex-Boyfriend Liam Cunningham, who is always a pleasure.

All in all, well worth a rental.

[Prequeue at Netflix]

Genre:  Action, Spy
Cast:  Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Robert Patrick, Liam Cunningham

MOVIE: The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)

November 18, 2009

pelhamIt’s probably been five years or more since I saw the original Taking of Pelham 123, which I rented back when I was going through a massive Walter Matthau phase.  And now that I’ve seen this film, the recent remake starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta, I’m eager to see the original again because I can’t remember what the original bad guy’s motives were, and I have a feeling they weren’t the same as they were in this version (this version’s motives being somewhat timely).

I figured this would be an entertaining, but not brilliant, movie, and I was right.  It’s not flawless, but it’s definitely a lot of fun to watch, especially if you’re a Denzel or/and Travolta fan, which I obviously am (hubba hubba x 2).  The story opens on a regular day in New York City’s MTA offices, with Washington playing Walter Garber, a former bigwig in the MTA who has recently been demoted to dispatcher following a scandal involving a bribe.  Unfortunately for Walter, he’s on duty the day a group of recent parolees, led by a man named Ryder (Travolta), hijack the Pelham 123 train.

It quickly becomes clear to Walter that the group knows a lot about the MTA subway system.  They stop the train in exactly the most advantageous spot in one of the tunnels, and quickly release most of the cars and passengers to make it easier for them to handle the set of hostages, which they then announce they are holding for $10 million in ransom.  But as the day goes on, it also becomes increasingly clear that Ryder has ulterior motives — that the ransom may not be his end game.  Can Walter, the mayor (played by James Gandolfini), or the lieutenant in charge of the hostage negotiation team (played by John Turturro) figure out what’s really going on before Ryder kills the hostages and/or absconds with the $10 million?

You can probably guess the answer to that question.  Go ahead, guess.  Yep, you’re right!

As I said, this movie isn’t perfect.  For one thing, I had the “ulterior motive” thing figured out way earlier than I should have and it was because of some heavy-handed hint dropping that could have been a lot more subtle.  Despite that, though, I found the whole ulterior motive thing pretty clever, all things considered, and it was fun waiting to find out if my theory about it was going to be proven right.

I also thought Denzel was great in this — I completely believed his character and, what’s more, I was really rooting for him as well.  Less convincing was Travolta, but only because I still think of him as more snuggly than bad-ass, even if the make-up department does kick down with a sinister goatee and neck tatt.

Overall, though, this is a pretty entertaining flick with some good acting, authentic suspense, and a fairly satisfying, if unbelievable, ending.  Definitely recommended to anybody looking for a good thriller.  And hey, gentlemen in the audience, they even somehow managed to throw in a couple of spectacular car wrecks for you, even though 95% of this movie takes place in an office and a tunnel.  Now THAT’S movie-making magic, my friends.

Recommended!

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Genre:  Thriller
Cast:  Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Michael Rispoli, James Gandolfini

BOOK: The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver

August 7, 2008

This is the latest installment in Deaver’s always-satisfying mystery series featuring forensics expert and quadriplegic Lincoln Rhyme. I’ve been a fan of this series since the first book, The Bone Collector, which was made into an equally-satisfying film starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie (ever since I saw the movie, Rhyme has stayed Denzel in my head, despite the fact he’s actually a white guy in the books). But while I found this one to be just as much fun to read as all the others have been, I will confess I think it could’ve benefited from some tighter editing in places.

In this one, Lincoln Rhyme and his partner/girlfriend Amelia Sachs are shocked when they discover Lincoln’s estranged cousin Arthur has just been arrested for a brutal murder. At first, Lincoln thinks it’s a case of mistaken identity — and yet, the evidence makes it absolutely clear he’s guilty. Until Lincoln starts to look more closely, that is, and quickly determines the evidence is just a little TOO perfect. Soon he, Amelia, and the rest of the team are hot on the trail of a killer who not only murders people for their random collectibles (coins, paintings, etc.), but manages to perfectly frame others for his crimes. The story eventually leads us into the world of data mining — huge technology corporations that specialize in storing every piece of data about a person they can get their hands on. Big Brother, it seems, has been watching us all for quite some time now, and apparently, his network security is for crap!

The actual mystery/crime part of this novel was as clever and riveting as usual. I love the forensic science in these books — it’s detailed enough to be fascinating to a geek like me, but not so detailed it goes right over my head. And the data mining stuff was also extremely interesting. That said, there were a few sections of this novel that got a bit bogged down and tedious for me — first time this has ever happened in a Rhyme novel, though, and it may have been more my fault (distracted?) than Deaver’s. Some of the stuff about Rhyme’s past with his cousin just went on too long, consumed too much of the storyline, and felt mostly unnecessarily. And some of the data mining-related characters also got more face-time in the book than the plot truly warranted. I think this novel could easily have lost several dozen pages and not suffered a smidge.

Nevertheless, this is another solid, satisfying forensics thriller, and I greatly look forward to the next installment in this utterly terrific series. Recommended!

[MYSTERY]

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MOVIE: Vantage Point (2008)

July 28, 2008

First things first, I’d like to formally thank the person who recommended this movie to me, even though I rather lamely cannot remember which one of you geniuses it was. Not only is this movie an absolute blast to watch, but it’s a veritable EX-BOYFRIENDPALOOZA! Dennis Quaid! Eduardo Noriega! Matthew Fox! William Hurt! Heck, even Richard T. Jones is in this! If they’d thrown in a cameo from Sock Puppet, it would’ve been my Movie of the Year for sure.

This intriguing, gripping film is about what happens between 12 and 12:23 pm one afternoon in Spain. The short version of what happens is that the U.S. President, in Salamanca to announce his new anti-terrorism partnership with the Spanish government, is shot and killed while speaking to a large crowd in the town square. But instead of just telling us the story of how and why this happens, the movie instead tells us the story of the same 23 minutes told, told, and retold from the perspective of a variety of different characters: a television news producer (Sigourney Weaver), two Secret Service agents (Quaid and Fox), a Spanish police officer (Noriega), an American tourist (future BotW Forest Whitaker), the President himself (Hurt), and then finally, the terrorists responsible for his shooting and the subsequent bombings, kidnapping, and car chases.

To say anything more than that is to spoil all the twists for you, which, I’m sorry to say, the movie will do a fine job of all its own — the one thing I was greatly disappointed by in this film was the fact that my Mom and I had just about every twist figured out LONG before they were revealed, including a very significant one I had pegged five minutes in. I hate it when that happens. It’s the work of shoddy writing, too much “telling” instead of “showing,” and some too-transparent, sub-par acting on the part of one of the aforementioned ex-Boyfriends, though I won’t say who.

Interestingly enough, however, despite the fact I think we both found this movie a bit too much on the predictable side, we were also COMPLETELY gripped by it, and very, very entertained. The constant rewinding and replaying from another point of view was clever in a Lost sort of way, and it also reminded me a little bit of Denzel Washington’s fine thriller Deja Vu, both because of the timeline stuff and because it also had a very fun car chase scene in it (though not one as creative as the comparable scene in Deja Vu, of course — that one is still tied for first place in Awesomeness with the car chase scene through the mall from the Blues Brothers (“Man, this place has got EVERYTHING!”)).

All in all, it was two hours we thoroughly enjoyed. And I’m really looking forward to A) seeing it again someday soon and B) seeing more of Eduardo Noriega in anything, although Spanish movies are so much better than American ones, it’s hard to wish he’d move to Hollywood. Even though I secretly want him to.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Thriller, Action
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Eduardo Noriega, William Hurt, Matthew Fox, Richard T. Jones, Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver.

MOVIE: Next (2007)

December 6, 2007

Surprisingly enough, the movie that ranked at the very bottom of our list of movies from the week of Thanksgiving (9 out of 9!) was this recent flick starring Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, and Nicolas Cage.  Man, I hate it when a good cast is wasted on a bad film.  And this film was really, really baaaaad.  I suppose it’s possible we would’ve enjoyed this movie more had we not just seen the far-superior time-manipulation flick Deja Vu.  But then again, since this movie was absolutely teeming with inconsistencies and unexplained nonsense, I suspect we would’ve hated it regardless of Denzel’s previous awesomeness.

We were pretty surprised by how abominable this flick was, to be honest.  It had a cast that seemed pretty reliable (I’m not a huge Biel fan, but it’s not like she’s Britney Spears or anything), and a fairly interesting premise to boot.  Cage plays a Las Vegas magician named Cris Johnson who, we soon learn, isn’t relying solely on the standard tricks in his act.  Nope, Johnson has an actual skill:  he can see exactly two minutes into his own future.   In other words, anything he is personally involved in, he can see just before it happens. 

This talent has come in handy in Vegas, where he can see the outcome of a poker game before he bets, or wow his audience with premonitions of things they can watch take place moments later.  In his audience one evening, though, is a Federal agent named Ferris (Moore), who has somehow discovered Cris’s gift and wants him to help her stop a nuclear explosion she’s learned is about to take place in Los Angeles.  But, of course, Cris knows Ferris is coming, and knows what she wants, so he keeps dodging her. 

After all, who among us really cares if LA is wiped off the face of the earth? 

Kidding!

Anyway, while he’s dodging Ferris, Cris finds himself drawn to a local diner, where he’s had a premonition of a variety he’s never experienced before:  the vision of a beautiful woman entering that diner hours or even days in the future (remember, he usually can only see two minutes ahead).  For two weeks, he stakes the diner out before she finally arrives, and the two end up hooking up after he runs through several scenarios on how best to woo her.  Blah blah cutesy blah blah.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, the girl isn’t really that important — the script writers just couldn’t figure out another way to motivate Cris into helping the government stop the bomb.  So, she’s essentially introduced so she can later be kidnapped by the terrorists.  Soon Cris is seeing a repeating vision of her exploding into bits, and this finally makes him agree to help Ferris stop the destruction.  Yawn.

A much bigger problem with this movie, though, is the whole bomb story to begin with.  First of all, it’s never made clear why Ferris thinks Cris can help her.  She doesn’t know he’s been able to see further into the future if his girlfriend is involved, so for all the Feds know, his abilities are limited to two minutes.  Two minutes?  What good is that going to do them?  Her initial plan seems to consist of having Cris watch TV news, saying that as soon as the explosion happens, the news will report it immediately and thus he’ll know two minutes before the bomb goes off exactly where it’s going to explode.  But two minutes wouldn’t be enough time for anybody to DO anything.  They couldn’t stop the bomb from going off, or evacuate the area, or even necessarily catch the bad guys as they ran away. 

Even lamer, the bad guys eventually learn of Cris’s talent when they see him stop something from happening and immediately assume he was able to do so because he can see into the future.  But, like, seriously?  That was their first thought?  A MAGICIAN does something incredible and they scratch their heads and think, “Golly, he must have ESP!”?  Wha. . .?

And, oh my friends, that’s merely a tiny sample of the many, many problems to be found within this incredibly bad movie.  I can’t even talk about the ending — after two hours of totally moronic crap, they had the gall to slap on an “And Then I Woke Up” style of ending (there’s no literal waking up, but it’s an ending of similar laziness and gimmick).  As the final credits rolled (backwards, for extra cheesy cuteness), Mom and I just looked at each other and shook our heads.

On our list of 9 movies watched during my vacation, this one ranks at the very, very bottom!   If I could rank it any lower than absolute last, I WOULD.  Though, of course, I fully expect Alisa to post in comments that this was her favorite film of 2007.  Whatever you do, people, DO NOT LISTEN TO ALISA!  (Hee.  Hi, Alisa!)  Instead, picture yourselves two minutes in the future NOT renting this movie — that’ll be all the happy ending you actually need.

[DON’T Netflix or Buy Me — are you insane? I’m not even going to give you the links for this one.  It’s for your own good.]

Genre: Absolute Crap
Cast:  A bunch of talented actors who should be totally ashamed of themselves.

MOVIE: Deja Vu (2006)

November 2, 2007

I’ve been trying to write this movie review for about five days now and I just can’t seem to come up with a description of this film that doesn’t totally ruin the whole thing. I think the reason I enjoyed this movie as much as I did had a lot to do with the fact I didn’t know anything about the plot going in (aside from what I’d quickly read on the back of the box at the video store, anyway). So, I can’t help but think now that anything I say about the story has the potential to detract from the fun for you guys. Which means I should just tell you I loved it and then shut the heck up.

The problem is, I suck at shutting the heck up (as well you long-time readers know!). So, instead, I’m going to assume that based on the film’s title, and the fact you probably saw ads for it on TV when it was in theaters, you are aware that this movie has something to do with the manipulation of time. To explain why I loved this movie without actually telling you anything about the story itself, I’m going to tell you a little known fact about me: I have an extremely strict rule regarding time-manipulation in movies. And any time a movie I’m watching violates that rule, I automatically hate it. It happens often, because my rule is extremely complicated.

The complicated thing about my rule is that it goes a little something like this: the time manipulation in your movie must both make sense and NOT make sense, concurrently. That is, you must make what I deem to be a serious, well-thought-out attempt to explain to me how you are manipulating time and what the ramifications of doing so will be. But the moment your explanation begins to make complete sense, you lose me for good. Because in my somewhat learned opinion, there is absolutely nothing — NOTHING — about quantum physics that can be described by the phrase “makes complete sense,” and so, if your explanation DOES, you’ve gotten something very, very unforgivably wrong.

See? Told you it was complicated. But, now that you know this about me, all I need to say to you about this film is that it did not violate my rule. In fact, it did such a good job at both making sense and NOT making sense, that my Mom and I had to pause the movie about 8 times so we could weave together a few theories and concepts in an attempt to make it all come together while it continued to blow our minds. Quantum physics is sorta like that, you know?

This one is really fun, folks. And it’s got something for everyone — science, mystery, geeks and geek humor, romance, and, of course, Mr. Denzel Washington looking MIGHTY fine, as per usual. Highly recommended! Let me know what you think if you see it.

NOTE: DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want any plot points spoiled.  We couldn’t help ourselves.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Sci-fi thriller/mystery

Cast: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Jim Caviezel, Bruce Greenwood, Jennifer Weston, Adam Goldberg, Matt Craven